Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stanlib's Sher tops SA funds

I like portfolio managers who do the real diligent work to assess investment targets. Anthony Sher of Stanlib is one such portfolio manager, and he has results to prove his hard work.

Anthony Sher was one of only three fund managers to buy when Esor first sold shares last year. The stock of the engineering company, which he visited after seeing the name on signs at building sites in Johannesburg, has jumped sixfold since then.

Observation is one of the skills that has made Sher South Africa's top fund manager and helped his R820m Stanlib Small-Cap Fund beat his benchmark and rivals this year and in the last three years.

"We don't ignore anyone, as you never know what they may become," Sher, 37, said. "Opportunities are opening up down the size scale rather than up the size scale."

Sher says he plans to maintain the 45% of his fund now invested in industrial stocks, as they are domestically focused and will be boosted by faster economic growth in South Africa. In the last two quarters he has added to his stakes in mining and steel companies, which make up 12% of his holdings. He expects the rand to weaken and lift the value of their dollar-based sales.

Sher draws on his past as a bank and insurance analyst at Standard Bank's asset-management unit, where he worked for two years, to pick small companies not covered by brokers and usually bought by individual investors. He also asks rivals, customers and suppliers about a business he is following, and sometimes holds stocks for more than five years.

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